An ATP 250 triple-header this week features a host of top stars eyeing early-season success. Cordoba, Dallas and Montpellier play host to tournaments from 6-12 February.
Diego Schwartzman leads the draw at the opening clay-court event of the 2023 season at the Cordoba Open, while Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe bring Top 20 quality to the hard courts at the Dallas Open. The hard-hitting Holger Rune and Jannik Sinner spearhead the field at the Open Sud de France – Montpellier.
ATPTour.com looks ahead at five things to watch at each event.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN CORDOBA
1) Clay-Court Kickoff: The ATP Tour action moves to clay for the first time in 2023 in Cordoba. The ATP 250 event in central Argentina kicks off a string of tournaments in South America known as the “Golden Swing”, with Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Santiago also hosting events across the next month.
2) Top Seed Schwartzman: The 30-year-old Schartzman last year reached the semi-finals in Cordoba before advancing to the championship match in both Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. The World No. 28 has won two of his four ATP Tour titles on South American clay (Rio de Janeiro 2018, Buenos Aires 2021).
3) Ramos-Vinolas Defends Title: Albert Ramos-Vinolas delivered a series of dominant performances in Cordoba last year, when he dropped just one set all week en route to his fourth ATP Tour crown. The third-seeded Spaniard will try to make another strong run in Argentina, but he is not the only former champion in the draw — 2020 titlist and former World No. 17 Cristian Garin and 2021 winner Juan Manuel Cerundolo will compete.
4) Home Favourites Seek Success: As well as Schwartzman, nine other Argentines (not including qualifiers) feature in the draw at an event where two of the four champions since the inaugural 2019 edition have been home favourites. Among this year’s contenders is Francisco Cerundolo, who is seeded second as he tries to emulate his brother Juan Manuel’s 2021 win, while fourth seed Sebastian Baez looks to better his 2022 quarter-final run.
5) Matos/Vega Hernandez Lead Doubles Field: Rafael Matos and David Vega Hernandez have lifted four ATP Tour titles since first teaming last March and they are the top seeds in Cordoba. Among their rivals in Argentina are second seeds Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni, the latter of whom is a two-time champion at the event after lifting the trophy in 2019 alongside Roman Jebavy and in 2022 with Santiago Gonzalez.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN DALLAS
1) Fritz, Tiafoe Lead Field: Top 20 Americans Fritz and Tiafoe will be confident at the Dallas Open, the only indoor ATP Tour event in the United States. The pair kicked off 2023 by helping Team United States to victory at the inaugural United Cup and proved themselves capable of handling home pressure in 2022, when Fritz lifted his maiden ATP Masters 1000 trophy in Indian Wells and Tiafoe reached his first Grand Slam semi-final at the US Open.
2) Americans Out In Force: The return of men’s tour-level tennis to Dallas in 2022 after 33 years away saw Reilly Opelka lift the title. Although the reigning champion is unable to defend his crown due to injury, there are plenty of other Americans in the draw. The man Opelka defeated in last year’s semi-finals, John Isner, has won 14 of his 16 ATP Tour titles in his homeland. The 37-year-old is the fifth seed this week in Dallas, where Marcos Giron, J.J. Wolf and Rafael Nadal’s Australian Open conqueror Mackenzie McDonald are all chasing their maiden tour-level title.
3) Shapovalov & Kecmanovic Players To Watch: Denis Shapovalov and Miomir Kecmanovic are players to watch in Texas, where they will make their Dallas Open debuts. Shapovalov, a former World No. 10 who is pursuing his second ATP Tour title, is the third seed. The Serbian Kecmanovic reached the semi-finals at the event in 2020 when it was held in New York. The 23-year-old established himself as one of the most consistent performers on Tour in 2022, when he reached nine tour-level quarter-finals, but will eye a deeper run as the fourth seed in Texas.
4) Wu On The Rise: After not playing a tour-level match between March 2019 and January 2022 due to a series of injuries, the 23-year-old Chinese star Wu Yibing has stormed to a career-high No. 112 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings with some dominant displays on the ATP Challenger Tour. Having also impressed on his recent main draw debuts at the US Open and the Australian Open, could Dallas provide the setting for his ATP Tour breakthrough?
5) Murray/Venus Lead The Way: The top seeds in the doubles draw are Jamie Murray and Michael Venus, who are a new pair this season. They have lifted 44 tour-level trophies between them and will try to claim their first as a duo in Dallas.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN MONTPELLIER
1) Rune Flying High: Despite an agonising five-set exit to Andrey Rublev in the Australian Open fourth round, Rune will be feeling confident as he returns to European indoor hard courts for the first time since his red-hot finish to 2022.
The 19-year-old won 20 out of 22 matches indoors across September, October and November to close out last season, lifting trophies in Stockholm and Paris on the way. Now at a career-high No. 9 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, can the Dane recapture that form as the top seed on his Montpellier debut?
2) Second Seed Sinner: The Italian Sinner looks to build on his solid start to 2023 in Montpellier, where he made a first-round exit on both his previous appearances in 2020 and 2021.
The 21-year-old is 5-2 for the season after a quarter-final run in Adelaide and reaching the fourth round at the Australian Open, and he will take further confidence knowing hat three of his six tour-level titles have come on indoor hard courts.
3) Bublik Eyes Repeat Success: Alexander Bublik stunned Alexander Zverev to clinch his maiden ATP Tour title in Montpellier a year ago, and the entertaining Kazakhstani returns as the sixth seed to defend his crown in southern France. The 25-year-old will hope fond memories of his 2022 triumph can spur him on as he seeks his first match win of the season.
4) All The Way For RBA? Roberto Bautista Agut’s brand of flat hitting was a regular feature of the 2023 Australian swing, during which the Spaniard reached the championship match at the Adelaide International 2 and battled past former World No. 1 Andy Murray en route to the fourth round at the Australian Open.
The 11-time tour-level titlist now looks to transfer that form indoors in Montpellier, where he reached the final in 2021, as he competes as the fourth seed.
5) Krawietz/Puetz Headline Doubles: A stacked doubles draw full of title-winning experience is led by German pairing Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz. Santiago Gonzalez is seeded second alongside three-time Montpellier champion Edouard Roger-Vasselin, while Andreas Mies/John Peers and Robin Haase/Matwe Middelkoop will also try to make deep runs in France.